Last updated on Feb 17th, 2021 at 10:13 am
Nothing can quite prepare you for the life-changing experience of having twins. From feeding and bathing, to putting them down for naps and changing nappies around the clock, life with twins can be as exhausting as it is rewarding. Although the first few weeks are a bit of a whirlwind, you can work towards establishing a flexible sleep schedule for your twins, which will work alongside their feeding routine. Ann Richardson and Meg Faure, authors of Sleep Sense, say by six weeks old, your babies’ feeding routine should be settling down and they should start sleeping for at least one longer stretch at night and waking to feed every three to four hours. If your twins were born premature or one is weaker than the other, you’ll need to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to feeding. Here’s four more effective ways to get your twins on the same sleep schedule…
1. Allow them to sleep together in the first weeks
There isn’t any doubt that twins comfort each other and feel calmer when they are placed next to each other, especially in the first six weeks after birth. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing points out that when newborn twins sleep in the same cot, they’re naturally inclined to have the same sleep schedule. This is because they tend to move closer to one another and touch, hold and hug each other often. They also generally wake at the same times, which will make your life much easier. They also regulate each other’s body temperatures, which helps to keep them calm and transition into the world after birth.
Worried that the one twin will wake the other? This isn’t always the case, says Shelly Vaziri Flais, author of Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool. “It has always amazed me how twins have a way of blocking out their twin’s noises. Many a time I walked into my twin babies’ bedroom while one boy was screaming his head off and the other was sleeping as peacefully as could be. Somehow twins can shut out such overnight noises from their twin, and this skill will extend into the preschool years.”
However, if you are concerned the one will disturb each other, particularly around 12 weeks old when babies start moving more, it might be a good time to put them in their own cots, but still in the same room.
2. Feed them at the same times
Waking a sleeping baby to feed in the middle of the night might sound like a crazy idea, but it’s a good strategy with twins, because inevitably as soon as you put the one baby to sleep, the other will wake hungry, believes registered nurse and assistant sleep consultant, Heather Matthies, who is also a mother of twins. “In the early days, if one baby is awake and it’s close to feeding time, feed everyone! Once your babies are older, you do want to discourage more frequent night feedings and encourage longer stretches of sleep, so I didn’t continue to do that,” she says. Of course, growth spurts may disrupt any kind of sleep schedule you might have established. Twins grow fast and are often hungry, so when they hit a growth spurt you may need to feed more often. This is normal and shouldn’t last longer than a week.
3. Put them down drowsy but awake
With one child, it’s easy to rock them to sleep in a restaurant or let them fall asleep in the car, but when it comes to having twins, try to let them fall asleep in their cots when it’s nap time rather than rocking or holding both of them at once. A flexible routine will become your best friend, says Heather. Schedules can fly out the window if your baby needs something, but having a routine provides a much-needed guide to the day, especially with twins, she adds. If one or both twins are fussing at sleep time, pick them up to calm them and put them down again when they become drowsy. Teaching them to self-settle is a great long-term strategy.
4. Create a calming sleep environment
When it comes to helping your babies sleep during the day and night, follow these tips from Sleep Sense:
Prevent over-tiredness by limiting their awake time between sleeps to 45 and 60 minutes during the day
Keep them swaddled in a stretchy 100% cotton blanket when it’s time to sleep
Dim the light in the room by closing the curtains and using blockout blinds so there’s no bright lights that can overstimulate them
Use white noise, such as a fan or sound of the ocean, to mimic the sounds of the womb
Keep night feeds very calm by remaining in the sleep zone, in a dark room with limited interaction.